The Polar Bear Run / Walk for Autism was today. I can’t tell you how humbling it was to have so many people gather to walk (or run) for “Team Finn.” We were extra cool and created bright yellow puffy painted shirts (see photo). People would walk by us and say “Go Team Finn!” One man even said, “Oh, there’s Finn! I remembered your team from registration!” Finn was wearing a shirt that said, “I’m Finn,” so there was no mistaking him!
I, of course, was an emotional mess. I was so touched by the people with no direct connection to autism. People who don’t live it every day, but would endure sub-freezing temperatures to walk in the name of autism. Even more touched that our “team” would walk in support of Finn. In support of our family.
I was so honored.
Honored that past students of Joe’s (and one of our babysitters) Mary and Kelly thought on their own to start this team for Finn.
Honored that our family friends, even one with a newborn baby, would brave the cold; leaving the comfort of their warm homes, juggling their own personal schedules to walk for Finn.
Honored that the group, as a whole, gathered in support of a cause that is so near and dear to our family.
I felt at ease among the group at the walk. People were tripping over themselves to be kind to one another. Passersby offered to take pictures for us. Strangers said “hi” to Finn, fawned over the babies and complimented our shirts. It was nice to be around people who “got it.” People who were willing to offer encouragement to our son, but knew that if he didn’t reciprocate “appropriately,” that was ok, too. People who turned a blind eye to a tantrum or uneasy social exchange. People who didn’t need eye contact because they knew that love and personal connection aren’t always found in the eyes.
But somehow, Finn didn’t mind the spotlight. Except for that one picture where he turned his back (a typical occurrence in our house). He interacted with people when they talked to him. He played with the other kids while they ran around a pole to busy themselves while waiting for the walk to start. He literally led our team in the walk and even ran a few blocks with the other kids! There have been times when Finn couldn’t even walk two blocks on the boardwalk, let alone run without tripping! It was amazing! And yet another victory that is not lost on me!
Today was a true testament to how far we have come. How much our family has changed in two short years. How big our hearts have grown. And just how full they can be through the kindness of others.
Thank you friends for supporting us and showing us, and Finn, what unconditional love is.
Author’s Note: Thank you to the Monichetti family, owners of Mike’s Seafood in Sea Isle, who have two children with autism and have organized this event for the past 5 years. Our autism community may be small, but it is powerful! You can find more information at www.polarbearrunwalkforautism.com or follow them on Facebook @Polar Bear Run Walk for Autism.